One of our vice-presidents, notorious for his sharp wit, has described our club as the only working anarchy in the world. There is a lot of truth in what he says; the committee tries its best to organise things, but for the most part everyone does what he likes. Surprisingly enough, such a system produces dividends, for members scatter far and wide over Craven and more remote districts at weekends, frequently returning full of enthusiasm for new sinks, risings, digs and holes.
Instead of attending the Club meet fixed for 5th October, 1958, Dick Hylton, Alan Jowett and Dave Raine went walking on Easegill and on Leck Fell; the wind screeched around their ears and the rain came down in sheets. They found Lower Easegill in flood, but by boulder-hopping managed to cross without getting wet. Dave showed the others a dig that he was interested in, but already Dick had noticed a hole in some large boulders which was engulfing great amounts of water. This hole is on the eastern bank of the gill about two hundred yards above the Upper Easegill Kirk. They spent some time unsuccessfully trying to dam off sufficient water to make a descent possible, but then departed for Leck Fell - full of enthusiasm (and chicken soup from Alan's thermos flask).
Later in the day they found Lower Easegill flooding heavily; the sink was now taking vast quantities of water, and there was no sign of the water backing up. It seemed highly likely that there was a negotiable passage below, and they determined to press-gang others into having a look the following weekend. It was no simple task to get back across Easegill, but the wooden fence across the gill, suspended from a log, provided the necessary footholds.
The description of the newly opened sink engulfing gallons of water sounded so inviting that the following Sunday, Dave Raine, Dick Hylton and I went up to have a look at it. The day was fine and the bed of Lower Easegill was dry. We had a look at the obvious open fissure, finding a small chamber, below which the way on was obstructed by a large limestone boulder. Below this it appeared that there might be a bedding plane leading off, which might be reached by a restricted opening between the boulder and the wall of the chamber. Dick got part way down the hole, but not far enough to see the way ahead.
Operations were suspended for lunch after which we walked up the gill and took some photographs. Dick and Dave then returned to the hole while I walked down to Leck Beck Head and back. On returning to the hole, I found no sign of the others to begin with until I saw Dick's artificial leg cast aside on the ground near the entrance. I found Dave in the small chamber and Dick down below the boulder having got in more easily without his leg. He reported that there appeared to be a small passage ahead but that further digging would be required to clear a way. We decided to leave the clearing job for thinner and shorter men.
(In a letter, W.Holden reports the activities of the above day.)
Present were :- David Raine, Colin Green, David Gibbons and "Rocky" Holden.
The entrance was first enlarged by the use of a hammer and chisel, a large piece of rock being removed to give much easier access to the passage below. Holden then forced his way through the entrance passage, pushing all rocks and rubble ahead of him. Soon the passage was cleared and in company with Raine, they explored some 300 yards of new cave to a point where, having traversed over one shaft, they were stopped by a second. Not having any ladders with them, they were unable to descend and returned to the entrance. Green and Gibbons, who had remained outside, then made a trip into the new cave and explored some of the avens and other side passages.
Reports of new passages and undescended shafts of substantial size; the proximity of this new cave to Leck Beck Head and thence to the hypothetical master cave; the background knowledge of the excellence of the known cave systems of the area; all these combined to produce a good number of both thick and thin men assembled at Greenclose on this Sunday morning.
In addition to these reports, came the rather disconcerting news that entry to the cave was effected for the first time only after a noted member of the club had removed one of his lower limbs to enable him to negotiate the initial squeezes. This latter item of news leaked away and came to the ears of Jack Aspin who replied by telegram to George Cornes: "Congratulations stop. Am sending saw stop. Manually removing cavers' legs stop." A communication well calculated to mystify the G.P.O. and perhaps stir the Lancashire C.I.D. to preventive action !
Disregarding these reports, but not without some trepidation, a strong party of N.P.C. left Greenclose for Bull Pot Farm by convoy, arriving at an early hour.
The weather was fine and dry and on arrival at the entrance we found Lower Easegill much to our liking; not a drop of water was running. This was as well, as with the entrance being but a few feet above the stream bed, flooding could rapidly occur.
As members changed, it was evident that there were two schools of thought present. One preferred to wear waterproof suits in case it was very wet, and risk sweating to death; the other preferred to sweat freely and risk freezing to death. Such was our knowledge of the new cave.
By stages, and after a short bout of boulder removing, the various members present eased themselves round the sharp corners of the entrance series clutching an assortment of ladders, lifelines, shovels and other implements. In the usual N.P.C. "and the devil take the hindmost" mode of exploration, I found myself in company with Batty and Jowett pressing on down the cave.
At first nasty corners, then into a short section of large tube passage, ancient looking and choked off at both ends with a fill of clay and rocks; sharp right here through a little rock window and a pool of water, a short distance further on and a climb down of some 10 feet. We then entered a winding passage of comfortable size which we followed to a point where a shaft opened in the floor, and just beyond this lay a second shaft.
Thus far the ground had been covered by the first explorers, but being without tackle they had been unable to proceed further.
Faced with two undescended shafts, some discussion now centered round which we should descend first. As the second shaft looked the more capacious and shallower, we decided on this one. An easy 24 foot climb brought us to a floor of sand in a wide fissure-type chamber lying at right angles to the passage we had just come down. Walking towards the far end, we found another short descent to a lower level. Batty chimneyed down and then reported that there was no way on as all was choked with sand.
While we were waiting at the top of this last descent, we noticed a low muddy bedding crawl on the right. I crawled into this and was at once aware of a soft breeze blowing into my face. With memories of the like situation in the exploration of Magnetometer Pot, I crawled forward in the mud-filled trench of the passage floor. After only a short distance, I was surprised to find that I could not see anything very clearly in front of me, my light being lost in the gloom and realised that we were into something rather more spacious than hitherto. I scrambled out rather gingerly on to a slope of black cracked mud and then, yelling something suitably encouraging back to the others, descended the mud slope into the centre of the new chamber.
"Surprise Hall", as we decided to name it, is the largest part of the cave, roughly triangular in plan, with a steep mud slope descending to a drop of some 10 feet into the trench of a large passage which forms the chamber's far wall. I climbed down on to the passage floor which was of clean washed boulders and sand, where I was joined by Jowett, Batty and Thurston.
"Downstream" to our right the passage continued for some 100 feet, to a large sump pool beyond which there was no obvious way. A fissure above this pool was later investigated, but did not yield anything of much interest. "Upstream" to our left the large passage continued beyond the point where a boulder was wedged across it. The passage we had entered was of a large tube type with a floor of sand and stones and many solution pockets and such like in the roof and walls. In some parts, the left hand wall appeared to be partially a fill of boulders and sand.
At first it looked as though we were likely to continue for some way, such were the dimensions of this tunnel, and yet within some 200 feet the roof became low and the passage ended in a choke of sand and stones. At this point the only possible way on appeared to be through a very low silted-up bedding passage on the right which was blocked at the highest point by a boulder. A little work here enabled us to squeeze through and descend to the floor of a parallel fissure passage. The prospects were not encouraging, and Jowett and Thurston decided to retrace their steps and search for any side passages that may have been overlooked.
Gordon Batty and I climbed down to the lowest point of our new found extension and slid through a low hole into a little space just big enough to accomodate the two of us. In front of us was a real rabbit burrow, a circular roof section with a floor of tacky black mud occupying just too much of the space to make the tunnel negotiable. At this point we might well have abandoned further exploration but we were gladdened and intrigued to hear the sound of a stream running at the far end of this horrid little tube. As we had not encountered anything more than the merest trickle of water in the cave so far, we thought this might be significant. We decided to try and dig our way through.
While we were engaged in digging out the mud from the floor of the tunnel, we were visited by the surveyors, Myers and Heys. They inspected our activities, listened to our stream and then, concluding that it was going to take some while, departed. Sometime later we were again disturbed by rumblings and other noises which heralded the arrival of Holden who joined in our excavation project. By this time things had become interesting. Beyond a small rise in the mud floor of the passage, the tunnel could be seen to increase in height and the floor slope away downhill. I was intrigued to find that when balls of mud were thrown forward over this rise, there followed a brief period of silence and then a dull "sploosh"; clearly there was a gradual slope down to a pool.
At last we found it possible to force our way through, the latter stages being accomplished more by a process of boring one's own tunnel through the mud than by digging. We arrived at a low T-junction with a muddy slope to a sump pool on the left and an ascending passage on the right from which a small stream flowed and disappeared into the sump pool.
We set out to explore the upstream passage which we followed for some 100 yards, in which length it varied from a fissure to an oval-shaped section. At the upper end it divided into two, the left being very tight and the right ending beneath a dangerous looking boulder choke.
This passage appears to be quite an independent part of the system and only connected to the main cave by the little mud tunnel through which we had come. It seems likely that the source of the stream is from some other sink higher up the gill, since this passage runs back towards the gill. This passage we called "Reverse Passage" since we had explored it from the lower end upwards.
While we were engaged in these muddy and wet wallowings, the surveyors were tying up the detail of their survey and Jowett, Cornes, Tucker, Raine and Reynolds were investigating other side passages and exploring the depths of the first shaft, over which we had traversed.
John Thurston and Alan Jowett decided to leave Gordon Batty and Alan Fincham to their digging and returned to look for other passages in and around Surprise Hall. The only one of significance in the main passage is on the west side near where the passage decreases appreciably in size. They found that this passage ended in a pitch of depth of about 20 feet after some 20 yards of creeping. The pitch was laddered and Thurston and Tucker descended into an oval-shaped chamber; a small amount of water fell from an aven on the far side and sank into a gravel floor, with some indication of a bedding cave taking the water.
The same party decided to wend their way out and descend the rift pitch on the way; the absence of the ladder they had taken into the side passage prevented anyone else from making the descent. Ladders had been belayed on to the obvious boss at the head of the pitch making a very awkward takeoff; since they had to be unhitched in any case to add the extra ladder, a fresh belay was used through an eyehole well above the top of the pitch. This provided an excellent takeoff and a beautiful clear climb down the shaft.
Alan Jowett descended first. The shaft is at first cigar-shaped varying in maximum width from 6-10 feet; lower down it narrows steadily, finishing as a climb in a long, narrow rift. The ladders just reached the bottom, giving an estimated depth of 70 feet. At the bottom is a narrow but very high rift carrying a small stream; this was followed downstream for several yards until the rift narrowed. Dave Raine and John Thurston who followed felt that the rift could perhaps be pushed further, especially with the aid of hammers to knock off some inconvenient sharp projections.
Upstream and very near the foot of the ladder is a climb into the small passage from which the water issues. Trevor Reynolds first entered this by traversing across from the ladder about 20 feet above the floor. The passage branches after a few yards, the left hand dry branch soon closing in. The right hand branch carries the water and soon develops into a low canal passage about two thirds full of water. This could also perhaps be explored further.
On a later visit to the pot, a party thrust its way through a very narrow passage at the head of the 24 foot pitch and arrived at the top of another pitch estimated to be about 70 feet deep. The survey notes made it fairly obvious that this was another pitch into the big rift, but it was hoped that it came in downstream from the narrow section previously reached. Roger Rhodes and Brian Heys explored and surveyed this, but were unlucky to finish up in the same section of rift passage entered by the others.
Over the next few weekends our exploration and survey was completed, although we never managed to finish the survey of the far stream passage. On Easegill standards the pot is perhaps disappointing, but is nevertheless very sporting and in a less-favoured district would likely be very popular.